By Anita Grace –
Lacing up your skates and heading out on a neighbourhood rink is for many a quintessential part of Canadian winters. Conveniently, there are 247 outdoor rinks in Ottawa, with 10 here in the Kitchissippi Ward.
“Being able to walk somewhere to go skating, meet up with friends at the rink – that to me is what community is all about,” says Heather Fraser, who lives near Westboro Kiwanis Park and has two daughters, ages 8 and 12. “It’s great to have a free, outdoor family activity in the neighbourhood that we can go to anytime.”
“We’re so lucky to have this,” echoes Kelly Wiles, who lives across the street from the Champlain Park rink. Her 9- and 11-year-old boys are out on the ice four or five times a week. “They strap on their skates after school, and they’re out again after supper,” she says.
“We’ve been skating since before Christmas,” Wiles says. She adds that her boys usually get restless in the beginning of winter, “but as soon as the ice is up, life is good again.”
While nearly every community rink is maintained by attendants, supervised during hours of operation, and lit at night, each rink has its own characteristics and local flavor.
“Fisher is a beautiful rink to skate,” enthuses Sheila McIntyre, who lives only two blocks from the popular park. She and her daughter Lucy, 6, especially like coming to skate in the evening. “It’s so beautiful and quiet. The sky is all sparkly, and the ice is all sparkly.”
Those with youngsters still learning to skate prefer the puddle rinks where hockey games are not permitted. Rink attendant Aidan Worswick says the large double ice surface at McKellar Park attracts a lot of young children from the neighbourhood whose parents appreciate that they don’t have to be dodging pucks while learning to skate.
Similarly, Claire Mullen says the puddle rink at Iona Park is the perfect size for her 2- and 4-year-old daughters. As one of the smallest rinks in the ward, Iona is a great place for beginner skaters to shuffle around and gain confidence.
Mullen also praises the extra touches added by the community, like the Christmas trees and snow forts that surround the rink. “Even the non-skaters are entertained,” she says.
Even though it’s not the closest rink to their home near Carlingwood, Cheryl Mulvihill likes to come to the Champlain Park rink with her family. While the guys play hockey inside the boarded rink, she can skate around the surrounding oval.
Ice surfaces are maintained by rink attendants hired by the City who clean and maintain the ice during hours of operation. Chris Deschamps, one of three attendants at Iona Park, explains that every night the surface is scraped and flooded. He says he is thankful to the many community volunteers who help prepare and maintain the surface, but adds a reminder to stay off rinks during thaws so as not to damage the ice surface.